The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Is Learning Disinterested Knowledge like Eating Pecan Pie?  (Read 4104 times)

Offline coberst

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 292
    • View Profile
Learning Disinterested Knowledge is Eating Pecan Pie.

I have discovered that I tend to respond to the understanding of a new idea much as I respond to eating pecan pie.  The ‘eureka’ moment resulting from the understanding of a new idea, which I had been pursuing, is similar to the feeling I have when eating a delicious piece of pecan pie.

Every bite of that pecan pie is extremely pleasurable; but after a few bites, while I desire to taste many more bites, my body informs me to stop and eat no more for a while.

When I enjoy the eureka moment of discover while studying I find that I feel the same kind of inclination.  I want to study the matter further but my body seems to inform me that I must put the book down, walk around for a while, and let my mind digest what I have learned.

Just as I must let my body digest the rich pie I must also allow the mind to digest the rich new idea.  I think that unconsciously my mind is reordering many of my previously constructed concepts to be in accordance with the new idea.  The new idea is as rich to my mind as is the pecan pie is rich to my body.

My experience leads me to conclude that there is a world of difference in picking up a fragment of knowledge here and there versus seeking knowledge for an answer to a question of significance.  There is a world of difference between taking a stroll in the woods on occasion versus climbing a mountain because you wish to understand what climbing a mountain is about or perhaps you want to understand what it means to accomplish a feat of significance only because you want it and not because there is ‘money in it’.

I think that every adult needs to experience the act of intellectual understanding; an act that Carl Sagan describes as “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.”

This quotation of Carl Rogers might illuminate my meaning:
 
I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed in to the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING - the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his 'cruiser'. I am talking about the student who says, "I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me." I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: "No, no, that's not what I want"; "Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need"; "Ah, here it is! Now I'm grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!"

When we undertake such a journey of discovery we need reliable sources of information.  We need information that we can build a strong foundation for understanding.  Where do we find such reliable information?  We find it in the library or through Google on the Internet or combinations thereof.

I have a ‘Friends of the Library’ card from a college near me.  This card allows me, for a yearly fee of $25, to borrow any book in that gigantic library.  Experts in every domain of knowledge have written books just especially for laypersons like you and I.

Lincoln was an autodidact.  Perhaps self-actualizing self-learning is for you.  When your school daze is complete it is a good time to begin the learning process.




 

Offline Soul Surfer

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 3345
  • keep banging the rocks together
    • View Profile
    • ian kimber's web workspace
Is Learning Disinterested Knowledge like Eating Pecan Pie?
« Reply #1 on: 19/11/2008 09:54:57 »
An interesting and poetic statement with which I can on the whole agree.  This attitude to learning is a feature of all good intellectuals.  However in my experience this is not generally the attitude of a great many "ordinary" people my Gandmother who brought me up was always warning me against doing too much studying because if I did "I would get brain fever and die" I am glad I ignored her and took after my grandfather who was a mine of curious (and frequently dubious) facts.  There is a strong vein of "a little Knowledge is a dangerous thing" so ignorance is safer in parts of society.

I have even seen aspects of this problem in highly focussed intellectuals who concentrate totally on their chosen field and are totally knowledgable in it but have no interests in subjects that are beyond the edge of their field.  This again is sad because as a professional innovator I have always found that the richest sources of useful innovation are linked to related fields and slightly behind the growing point of the field where the innovation is to be applied.
 

Offline coberst

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 292
    • View Profile
Is Learning Disinterested Knowledge like Eating Pecan Pie?
« Reply #2 on: 19/11/2008 11:56:44 »

I am a retired engineer with a good bit of formal education and twenty five years of self-learning.  I began the self-learning experience while in my mid-forties.  I had no goal in mind; I was just following my intellectual curiosity in whatever direction it led me.  This hobby, self-learning, has become very important to me.  I have bounced around from one hobby to another but have always been enticed back by the excitement I have discovered in this learning process.  Carl Sagan is quoted as having written; “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.”

I label myself as a September Scholar because I began the process at mid-life and because my quest is disinterested knowledge.

Disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic value.  Disinterested knowledge is not a means but an end.  It is knowledge I seek because I desire to know it.  I mean the term ‘disinterested knowledge’ as similar to ‘pure research’, as compared to ‘applied research’.  Pure research seeks to know truth unconnected to any specific application. 

I think of the self-learner of disinterested knowledge as driven by curiosity and imagination to understand.  The September Scholar seeks to ‘see’ and then to ‘grasp’ through intellection directed at understanding the self as well as the world.  The knowledge and understanding that is sought by the September Scholar are determined only by personal motivations.  It is noteworthy that disinterested knowledge is knowledge I am driven to acquire because it is of dominating interest to me.  Because I have such an interest in this disinterested knowledge my adrenaline level rises in anticipation of my voyage of discovery.

We often use the metaphors of ‘seeing’ for knowing and ‘grasping’ for understanding.  I think these metaphors significantly illuminate the difference between these two forms of intellection.  We see much but grasp little.  It takes great force to impel us to go beyond seeing to the point of grasping.   The force driving us is the strong personal involvement we have to the question that guides our quest.  I think it is this inclusion of self-fulfillment, as associated with the question, that makes self-learning so important.

The self-learner of disinterested knowledge is engaged in a single-minded search for understanding.  The goal, grasping the ‘truth’, is generally of insignificant consequence in comparison to the single-minded search.  Others must judge the value of the ‘truth’ discovered by the autodidactic.  I suggest that truth, should it be of any universal value, will evolve in a biological fashion when a significant number of pursuers of disinterested knowledge engage in dialogue.

In the United States our culture compels us to have a purpose.  Our culture defines that purpose to be ‘maximize production and consumption’.  As a result all good children feel compelled to become a successful producer and consumer.  All good children both consciously and unconsciously organize their life for this journey.

At mid-life many citizens begin to analyze their life and often discover a need to reconstitute their purpose. Some of the advantageous of this self-learning experience is that it is virtually free, undeterred by age, not a zero sum game, surprising, exciting and makes each discovery a new eureka moment.  The self-learning experience I am suggesting is similar to any other hobby one might undertake; interest will ebb and flow.  In my case this was a hobby that I continually came back to after other hobbies lost appeal.

I suggest for your consideration that if we “Get a life—Get an intellectual life” we very well might gain substantially in self-worth and, perhaps, community-worth.

As a popular saying goes ‘there is a season for all things’.  We might consider that spring and summer are times for gathering knowledge, maximizing production and consumption, and increasing net-worth; while fall and winter are seasons for gathering understanding, creating wisdom and increasing self-worth.

I have been trying to encourage adults, who in general consider education as a matter only for young people, to give this idea of self-learning a try.  It seems to be human nature to do a turtle (close the mind) when encountering a new and unorthodox idea.  Generally we seem to need for an idea to face us many times before we can consider it seriously.  A common method for brushing aside this idea is to think ‘I’ve been there and done that’, i.e. ‘I have read and been a self-learner all my life’. 

It is unlikely that you will encounter this unorthodox suggestion ever again.  You must act on this occasion or never act.  The first thing is to make a change in attitude about just what is the nature of education.  Then one must face the world with a critical outlook.  A number of attitude changes are required as a first step.  All parents, I guess, recognize the problems inherent in attitude adjustment.  We just have to focus that knowledge upon our self as the object needing an attitude adjustment rather than our child. 

Another often heard response is that “you are preaching to the choir”.  If you conclude that this is an old familiar tune then I have failed to make clear my suggestion.  I recall a story circulating many years ago when the Catholic Church was undergoing substantial changes.  Catholics where no longer using Latin in the mass, they were no longer required to abstain from meat on Friday and many other changes.  The story goes that one lady was complaining about all these changes and she said, “with all these changes the only thing one will need to do to be a good Catholic is love thy neighbor”.

I am not suggesting a stroll in the park on a Sunday afternoon.  I am suggesting a ‘Lewis and Clark Expedition’.  I am suggesting the intellectual equivalent of crossing the Mississippi and heading West across unexplored intellectual territory with the intellectual equivalent of the Pacific Ocean as a destination.
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 2331
  • KIS Keep It Simple
    • View Profile
Is Learning Disinterested Knowledge like Eating Pecan Pie?
« Reply #3 on: 19/11/2008 13:59:19 »
Coberst & Soul Surfer Thank you for the insight into your characters. Pioneers are in short supply and we could certainly use a few more people thinking outside of the boxes.

The bridge you have crossed is one I too crossed many years ago. It is very empowering to take the bull by the horns on occasions and follow where your thoughts are leading. Your posts are very inspiring.

Andrew
 

Offline coberst

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 292
    • View Profile
Is Learning Disinterested Knowledge like Eating Pecan Pie?
« Reply #4 on: 19/11/2008 20:02:23 »


I have even seen aspects of this problem in highly focussed intellectuals who concentrate totally on their chosen field and are totally knowledgable in it but have no interests in subjects that are beyond the edge of their field.  This again is sad because as a professional innovator I have always found that the richest sources of useful innovation are linked to related fields and slightly behind the growing point of the field where the innovation is to be applied.

Our(USA)society is very anti-intellectual and our educational system has graduated a society with great learning handicaps.  The only solution that I can see is to convince as many people as possible to become self-actualizing self-learners with the hope that the group of more sophisticated learners will lead to a greater group that has the sophistication to help solve our problems.

The Internet forum offers us an opportunity to take this message to the masses.  It might work.
 

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8650
  • Thanked: 42 times
    • View Profile
Is Learning Disinterested Knowledge like Eating Pecan Pie?
« Reply #5 on: 20/11/2008 19:46:25 »
"Learning Disinterested Knowledge is Eating Pecan Pie". It's also "tending wine seeded rollerskating" in that it has the same letters.
 

paul.fr

  • Guest
Is Learning Disinterested Knowledge like Eating Pecan Pie?
« Reply #6 on: 27/11/2008 23:27:07 »
.
ermmmmm Pecan Pie
 

Offline Make it Lady

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4050
  • Hands-on fun for everyone!
    • View Profile
Is Learning Disinterested Knowledge like Eating Pecan Pie?
« Reply #7 on: 27/11/2008 23:38:38 »
I prefer toucan pie.
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Is Learning Disinterested Knowledge like Eating Pecan Pie?
« Reply #7 on: 27/11/2008 23:38:38 »

 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums